A comprehensive library of technical briefs from engineering experts at NASA and major government, university, and commercial laboratories covering all aspects of innovations in electronics, software, photonics, imaging, motion control, automation, sensors, test, materials, manufacturing, mechanical, and mechatronics.

Briefs : Materials
Functionalization of Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes by Photo-Oxidation

A new technique for carbon nanotube oxidation was developed based upon the photo-oxidation of organic compounds. The resulting method is more benign than conventional oxidation approaches and produces single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) with higher levels of oxidation.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Miniature Piezoelectric Macro-Mass Balance

Mass balances usually use a strain gauge that requires an impedance measurement and is susceptible to noise and thermal drift. A piezoelectric balance can be used to measure mass directly by monitoring the voltage developed across the piezoelectric balance, which is linear with weight or it can be used...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Acoustic Liner for Turbomachinery Applications

The purpose of this innovation is to reduce aircraft noise in the communities surrounding airports by significantly attenuating the noise generated by the turbomachinery, and enhancing safety by providing a containment barrier for a blade failure. Acoustic liners are used in today’s turbofan...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Water Tank With Capillary Air/Liquid Separation

A bladderless water tank (see figure) has been developed that contains capillary devices that allow it to be filled and emptied, as needed, in microgravity. When filled with water, the tank shields human occupants of a spacecraft against cosmic radiation. A membrane that is permeable by air but is...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Large-Flow-Area Flow-Selective Liquid/Gas Separator

This liquid/gas separator provides the basis for a first stage of a fuel cell product water/oxygen gas phase separator. It can separate liquid and gas in bulk in multiple gravity environments. The system separates fuel cell product water entrained with circulating oxygen gas from the outlet of...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Metering Gas Strut for Separating Rocket Stages

A proposed gas strut system would separate a liquid-fueled second rocket stage from a solid-fueled first stage using an array of pre-charged struts. The strut would be a piston-and-cylinder mechanism containing a compressed gas. Adiabatic expansion of the gas would drive the extension of the strut....

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Counterflowing Jet Subsystem Design

A counterflowing jet design (a spacecraft and trans-atmospheric subsystem) employs centrally located, supersonic cold gas jets on the face of the vehicle, ejecting into the oncoming free stream. Depending on the supersonic free-stream conditions and the ejected mass flow rate of the counterflowing jets, the...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
True Shear Parallel Plate Viscometer

This viscometer (which can also be used as a rheometer) is designed for use with liquids over a large temperature range. The device consists of horizontally disposed, similarly sized, parallel plates with a precisely known gap. The lower plate is driven laterally with a motor to apply shear to the liquid in...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Maglev Facility for Simulating Variable Gravity

An improved magnetic levitation apparatus (“Maglev Facility”) has been built for use in experiments in which there are requirements to impose variable gravity (including zero gravity) in order to assess the effects of gravity or the absence thereof on physical and physiological processes. The...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Focusing Diffraction Grating Element With Aberration Control

Diffraction gratings are optical components with regular patterns of grooves, which angularly disperse incoming light by wavelength in a single plane, called dispersion plane. Traditional gratings on flat substrates do not perform wavefront transformation in the plane perpendicular to...

Briefs : Physical Sciences
Universal Millimeter-Wave Radar Front End

A quasi-optical front end allows any arbitrary polarization to be transmitted by controlling the timing, amplitude, and phase of the two input ports. The front end consists of two independent channels — horizontal and vertical. Each channel has two ports — transmit and receive. The transmit signal is...

Briefs : Information Technology
3D GeoWall Analysis System for Shuttle External Tank Foreign Object Debris Events

An analytical, advanced imaging method has been developed for the initial monitoring and identification of foam debris and similar anomalies that occur post-launch in reference to the space shuttle’s external tank (ET). Remote sensing technologies have been used...

Briefs : Information Technology
Hidden Statistics Approach to Quantum Simulations

Recent advances in quantum information theory have inspired an explosion of interest in new quantum algorithms for solving hard computational (quantum and non-quantum) problems. The basic principle of quantum computation is that the quantum properties can be used to represent structure data, and...

Briefs : Information Technology
Determining Atmospheric-Density Profile of Titan

A method was developed for measuring the atmospheric density of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, to create an accurate density profile as a function of altitude. This will allow mission planners to select safe flyby altitudes, and for navigation engineers to accurately predict the delta-v...

Briefs : Imaging
Plenoptic Imager for Automated Surface Navigation

An electro-optical imaging device is capable of autonomously determining the range to objects in a scene without the use of active emitters or multiple apertures. The novel, automated, low-power imaging system is based on a plenoptic camera design that was constructed as a breadboard system....

Briefs : Imaging
Reconstituted Three-Dimensional Interactive Imaging

A method combines two-dimensional images, enhancing the images as well as rendering a 3D, enhanced, interactive computer image or visual model. Any advanced compiler can be used in conjunction with any graphics library package for this method, which is intended to take digitized images and...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Qualification and Selection of Flight Diode Lasers for Space Applications

The reliability and lifetime of laser diodes is critical to space missions. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission includes a metrology system that is based upon laser diodes. An operational test facility has been developed to qualify and select, by...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
High-Speed Operation of Interband Cascade Lasers

Optical sources operating in the atmospheric window of 3–5 μm are of particular interest for the development of free-space optical communication link. It is more advantageous to operate the free-space optical communication link in 3–5-μm atmospheric transmission window than at the telecom...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Hybrid AlGaN-SiC Avalanche Photodiode for Deep-UV Photon Detection

The proposed device is capable of counting ultraviolet (UV) photons, is compatible for inclusion into space instruments, and has applications as deep-UV detectors for calibration systems, curing systems, and crack detection. The device is based on a Separate Absorption and Charge...

Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Mode Selection for a Single-Frequency Fiber Laser

A superstructured fiber-grating-based mode selection filter for a single-frequency fiber laser eliminates all free-space components, and makes the laser truly all-fiber. A ring cavity provides for stable operations in both frequency and power. There is no alignment or realignment required. After...

Briefs : Energy
Microwave Plasma Hydrogen Recovery System
A microwave plasma reactor was developed for the recovery of hydrogen contained within waste methane produced by Carbon Dioxide Reduction Assembly (CRA), which reclaims oxygen from carbon dioxide. NASA can incorporate the innovation into flight hardware systems for deployment in support of future...
Briefs : Lighting
Diffuse-Illumination Systems for Growing Plants

A proposed plant-growth system takes advantage of the highly diffuse reflective surfaces on the interior of a sphere, hemisphere, or other nearly enclosed structure that is coated with highly reflective materials. This type of surface and structure uniformly mixes discrete light sources to produce...

Briefs : Information Technology
Charge-Spot Model for Electrostatic Forces in Simulation of Fine Particulates

The charge-spot technique for modeling the static electric forces acting between charged fine particles entails treating electric charges on individual particles as small sets of discrete point charges, located near their surfaces. This is in contrast to existing...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Sprag Handle Wrenches
Sprag Handle Wrenches

Sprag handle wrenches have been proposed for general applications in which conventional pawl-and-ratchet wrenches and sprag and cam “clickless” wrenches are now used. Sprag handle wrenches are so named because they...

Sprag Handle Wrenches
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Inline Electrical Connector Mate/Demate Pliers

Military and aerospace industries use Mil-Spec type electrical connections on bulkhead panels that require inline access for mate and demate operations. These connectors are usually in tight proximity to other connectors, or recessed within panels. The pliers described here have been designed to...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Seal With Integrated Shroud for Androgynous Docking and Berthing

A specially configured seal system (see figure) has been developed and produced that provides a barrier to gas leakage between a pressurized module and its external environment. The seal system includes a shroud covering that both protects the sealing surface from its environment...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Locking Nut With Stress-Distributing Insert

An improved locking nut comprises (1) an internally threaded shell, partly resembling a conventional nut, that can be engaged by a wrench or other tool, and (2) an internally and externally threaded insert that engages the threads of the shell and a bolt. Whereas some prior locking nuts are plated over...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Adaptable Holders for Arc-Jet Screening Candidate Thermal Protection System Repair Materials

Reusable holders have been devised for evaluating high-temperature, plasma-resistant re-entry materials, especially fabrics. Typical material samples tested support thermal-protection-system damage repair requiring evaluation prior to re-entry into...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Miniature Low-Mass Drill Actuated by Flextensional Piezo Stack

Recent experiments with a flextensional piezoelectric actuator have led to the development of a sampler with a bit that is designed to produce and capture a full set of sample forms including volatiles, powdered cuttings, and core fragments.

Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Digitally Controlled Slot Coupled Patch Array

A four-element array conformed to a singly curved conducting surface has been demonstrated to provide 2 dB axial ratio of 14 percent, while maintaining VSWR (voltage standing wave ratio) of 2:1 and gain of 13 dBiC. The array is digitally controlled and can be scanned with the LMS Adaptive Algorithm...